Dozens of new immigrants arrive in Israel from Ethiopia

Members of the Ethiopian Falash Mura community are reunited with their families at Ben Gurion Airport on Feb. 4, 2019. Photo: Tomer Neuberg/Flash90

Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — More than 40 new immigrants arrived in Israel on Tuesday from Ethiopia, less than a week before national elections.

The new immigrants are from nine families and are being reunited with relatives who live in Israel. They are part of the Falash Mura community, which claim links to descendants of Jews who converted to Christianity generations ago under duress but now seek a return to Judaism.

The interim government earlier this month announced that it had approved the arrival of nearly 400 of the Falash Mura waiting in Gondar to immigrate and that it would try to bring them all before the March 2 elections. But it only managed to locate 43 that it could immediately bring over, Ynet reported.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit opposed the action, saying they did not need to be brought over immediately and that it was clearly a politically motivated decision ahead of the election.

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Some 8,000 Falash Mura in Ethiopia are awaiting permission to immigrate to Israel, most of whom have some family members in Israel. A Cabinet resolution in 2015 committed to bring all 8,000 to Israel by 2020, but limited money has been allocated in successive budgets to make that happen.

In October 2018, the Cabinet approved a plan for the immigration of 1,000 candidates in the following year who met the criterion of having first-degree relatives who entered Israel under previous government decisions regarding the Falash Mura community. But in 2019 only about 600 arrived.

About 140,000 Ethiopians live in Israel.